Tarry in Jerusalem

SYNOPSIS – Jesus commanded his disciples to tarry in Jerusalem until they received the Spirit, empowering them to become his witnesses - Acts 1:1-11

Waterfalls - Photo by sgcdesignco on Unsplash
The book of Acts begins in Jerusalem - The heart of the Jewish nation - with the ascension of Jesus and the outpouring of the Spirit. It concludes with Paul preaching the gospel in Rome - The heart of the world empire. Following his Death and Resurrection, Jesus ascended to become the Lord who reigns over the nations “at the right hand of God.” His sovereignty over the Cosmos is implemented as his message is proclaimed by “his witnesses” - even to the “
uttermost parts of the earth” - [Photo by sgcdesignco on Unsplash].

The first chapter of Acts provides thematic and verbal links to the first and last chapters of Luke, as well as to the concluding section of the book of Acts. The chapter is comprised of four sections:
  1. The introductory note to Theophilus - (1:1-5).
  2. The command to tarry in Jerusalem and the ascension- (1:6-11).
  3. The return to Jerusalem - (1:12-14).
  4. The replacement of Judas to complete the number of the Apostles - (1:15-26).
The book of Acts is the companion volume to the gospel of Luke. Both works open with an address to a man named Theophilus – (“That you might know the certainty concerning the things in which you were instructed”).
  • (Acts 1:1-3) - “The former treatise I made, O Theophilus, concerning all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, until the day in which he was received up, after that he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit unto the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom he also showed himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing unto them by the space of forty days, and speaking the things concerning the kingdom of God: and being assembled together with them, he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, said he, you heard from me.” - (Luke 1:1-4).
The “former treatise” - Luke - presents “all that Jesus began both to do and to teach.” the book of Acts tells the story of how that work continued in his people under the direction and through the empowerment of the Spirit – To proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to all nations.

The gift of the Spirit is mentioned only a few times in Luke. The gospel account concluded with Jesus commanding the disciples to remain in Jerusalem until they received the “promise of the Father,” then they would proclaim the gospel throughout the earth. This command sets the stage for the first two chapters of the book of Acts, if not for the entire book:
  • (Luke 24:45-49) – “Then opened he their mind, that they might understand the scriptures; and he said to them, Thus, it is written, that the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nationsbeginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I send forth the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry in the city until you be clothed with power from on high.
After the introduction, Acts picks up this thread. Prior to his ascent, Jesus taught his disciples concerning the “kingdom of God” and charged them not to depart from Jerusalem until they received the “promise of the Father”:
  • For John baptized with water; but you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
Before he departed, the disciples asked Jesus about the kingdom and its timing – “Will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? To this, he responded:
  • It is not for you to know the times or seasons, which the Father has set in his own authority.”
He did not answer their query about the timing of the event; however, he did not deny the legitimacy of the question about the kingdom. Had he not been teaching his disciples about this very thing over the preceding “forty days”? His response echoes the prayer of Daniel after he received the interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream:
  • (Daniel 2:20-21) – “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever; for wisdom and might are his. And he changes the times and the seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings.
Rather than worry about chronologies, the disciples must remain in the city until they receive the gift of the Spirit, then they will proclaim the kingdom to all nations:
  • But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; then you will be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth.”
Jesus did not state “when” the kingdom would be “restored,” and he gave no hint as to the timing of that event, whether it would be soon or in a distant future. Rather than worry about its timing, the disciples needed to receive the Spirit and, thus, become effective “witnesses” for the kingdom. His instructions echo passages from the book of Isaiah and the second Psalm:
  • (Isaiah 43:1-11) – “But now, thus says Yahweh who created you, O Jacob, and he that formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name, you are mine…Fear not; for I am with you: I will bring your seed from the east, and gather you from the west; I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back; bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the end of the earth; everyone that is called by my name…You are my witnesses, says Yahweh, and my servant whom I have chosen.”
  • (Psalm 2:6-8) – “Yet I have set my king Upon my holy hill of Zion. I will tell of the decree: Yahweh said unto me, You are my son; This day have I begotten you. Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance, And the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession.
In Acts, the process of restoring the kingdom begins with the election of a new apostle after the disciples returned to Jerusalem, and with the receipt of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost.

Jesus Teaching about the Kingdom
Jesus began to reconstitute the covenant community around his twelve apostles, representatives of the nation of Israel, who, under the power and direction of the Spirit, became “
his witnesses” to Israel and nations.

The reference to the “kingdom of God” is a verbal link to the conclusion of Acts where the Apostle Paul is found in Rome “preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness, none forbidding him,” both to Jews and Gentiles. The subject of the “kingdom of God” is at the heart of Acts, but it can only be implemented as the followers of Jesus proclaim his message in the power of the Spirit - (Acts 28:31).

After this, the disciples watched Jesus ascend to heaven until a “cloud received him,” a verbal link to the vision of one “like a Son of Man” in the book of Daniel, and to Christ’s description of his return in glory.  While continuing to gaze upwards, “two men stood by them in white apparel” and exhorted them:
  • You men of Galilee, why are you standing and looking into heavens? This same Jesus will so come in like manner as you beheld him going into heaven.”
  • (Daniel 7:13) – “I saw in the night-visions, and behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man.”
  • (Luke 21:27) – “And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”
This passage locates the mission of the church between the exaltation of Jesus and the end of the age when he will arrive in glory. In the interim, his disciples are tasked with proclaiming the gospel to “all nations” – “To the uttermost ends of the earth.”

The theme of taking the message of the kingdom to the “ends of the earth” is reiterated at the end of Peter’s sermon after the outpouring of the Spirit, as well as the “promise of the Father” – The gift of the Spirit:
  • (Acts 2:39-39) – “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do?  And Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call unto him.
Thus, with his ascension, the reign of the Messiah from the “right hand of God” commenced, a process that continues until his kingdom has been declared “even as far as the uttermost part of the earth.” Only then will he return in glory. But before this mission can begin, the disciple must receive the “promise of the Father” to equip them as “his witnesses.”


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